Ultra-orthodox and other Jews in Jerusalem – November 6, 2008

Ultra-orthodox and other Jews in Jerusalem – November 6, 2008

Towards the Municipal elections in Jerusalem, the rift between Ultra-Orthodox Jews and other Jewish denominations is escalating. The main two candidates to the Mayor office represent the main two groups, and although the results will not be known until the elections on November 11, it is anticipated that whichever side wins will make the “other group” feel excluded in the city.

Earlier this week, the JICC invited a group of leaders to begin a high-level process of discussions and negotiations on ways to live together in the city. Today, a public conference on Jerusalem as a Multicultural City was held at the Ethics Center of Mishkenot Sha’ananim (see the program in Hebrew).

The conference was organized and facilitated by Avner Haramati, the JICC board chairperson, and by Prof. Shlomo Hasson. In addition to Haramati three other JICC board members spoke at the conference: Father Pier Battista Pizzaballa, OFM, Custos of the Holy Land; Sharon Rosen, the Israeli director of Search for Common Ground; and Dudi Zilbershlag, Director of Meir Panim. This demonstrates the diversity of the board and its serious attitude towards multiculturalism.

Importantly, the candidates for the Mayor office attended the conference and presented their approach to diversity in the city. Dr. Hagai Agmon-Snir, the JICC director, presented an example of a challenging dialogue process that took place between the gay and the Ultra Orthodox communities in Jerusalem around the Pride Parades conflict. In this case, the facilitation by the JICC resulted in understanding between the two sides. The challenge for the future will be to create similar processes in additional neighborhoods as well as citywide.

The JICC took the opportunity to announce the strategic process that was started this week. Next steps will be taken after the elections. Without doubt these issues are crucial for the future of Jerusalem.

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